Eli Broad won’t be MOCA’s lead funder for much longer

The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art is facing a loss of funds from Eli Broad.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Eli Broad said Tuesday that he won’t continue giving $3 million a year to his new museum’s across-the-street neighbor, the Museum of Contemporary Art, ending his five-year run as its primary funder.

But he thinks his museum, called the Broad, will be a boon to MOCA’s attendance, even though general admission will be free and MOCA charges $12 for admission.

“I don’t have any plans to make another pledge; but you never know,” Broad said Tuesday while hosting guests for a “hard-hat tour” of the construction site for his museum, which is expected to open in late 2014, across Grand Avenue from MOCA.


PANORAMA: Inside The Broad under construction

Broad said he discussed the decision to offer free admission at the Broad with MOCA’s board leadership.

“They’re excited about it. They know that we’re going to be a great attraction, we’re going to spend time and energy and marketing getting attendance, and they’re going to be the beneficiary of all that,” he said.

Asked about the implications of free admission at its new neighbor, MOCA spokeswoman Lyn Winter said in an email that “we anticipate an increase in attendance when The Broad opens, and as such are evaluating new attendance and membership options” aimed at maximizing MOCA’s draw.

Broad became MOCA’s leading funder in December 2008, with a pledge of up to $30 million that allowed the museum to remain independent at a time when nearly all its money had vanished following eight years of overspending capped by a global economic meltdown.

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures by The Times

A crucial part of the pledge, which trumped a takeover bid by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was $15 million to support MOCA’s exhibitions. Broad agreed to provide $3 million a year for five years, but time is nearly up. The last quarterly installment of $750,000 from his Broad Foundation is due in October.

In the 2012-13 fiscal year that ended June 30, Broad’s exhibition pledge money made up more than a fifth of MOCA’s overall operating budget of $14.3 million. The question of whether he’d renew his support — and what MOCA would do if he did not — has loomed since early in 2012, when it became apparent that MOCA was again facing serious financial constraints.

MOCA announced in March that it had embarked on a campaign to build its endowment from about $20 million to $100 million, but that would not address immediate operating needs because endowment donations are supposed to be invested, not spent. The last update, which came in July when MOCA museum director Jeffrey Deitch announced he was resigning, said that enough pledges had been received to boost the endowment to $75 million.

PHOTOS: The Broad museum

“I’ve heard that they’re at about $80 million currently,” said Broad, a life trustee at MOCA. Broad said the figure is a combination of “pledges and money in the bank.” Often, large pledges such as the ones to MOCA’s current campaign are paid over several years. Broad will kick in at least $8.75 million to the endowment campaign to fulfill his 2008 pledge to match up to $15 million in endowment gifts.

MOCA is searching for a new museum director to replace Deitch, who resigned three years into his five-year contract.

“I think MOCA needs a director that could frankly help raise the funds they need,” said Broad, adding that he’s not involved in the search.

A new director should be able to “work with the trustees and have the ability to choose a great chief curator,” Broad said, and “also be someone that can rally all the people around Los Angeles to support the museum, [by] fundraising and being out there in the community.”